"Stella" from recent demo sessions
Veteran Charleston musician Doug Walters loves making music, whether as an ace side man on the local stages or as a budding songwriter in the home studio. This week's set at the Map Room marks his first genuine foray into "solo" territory as he leads his newly-assembled combo through a set of his own tunes and arrangements.
"These are songs from the heart," says the guitarist. "Through the years, I've written songs for the gigs and for the bands. My own stuff tends to be ballads with a touch of blues and touch of country ... straightforward songs of hope in a dark, somber, rootsy vein. That's where we're starting from and we'll branch out from there."
Back in 1996, Walters joined local soul/jam/funk combo The Secrets, one of the busiest on the local bar circuit. In recent years, he signed on with songwriter Rik Cribb's new rock band The Problems. In his spare time, he's tinkered with song ideas, rhythmic patterns, and lyrics in his own home studio.
"I've had a nice little batch of tunes looking for a place to call home for quite a while now," Walters says. "I feel very good about unveiling them here and now. There are a few heart-breakers in there, too, because, let's face it, sometimes it be like that. I guess you could call them working class songs without all the hot licks, the fancy fills, the flashy chops, and the over-the-top what have you's."
His demos reveal a loose approach with gutsy, rough-groove style pulled from somewhere between the likes of Paul McCartney, Nick Drake, Neil Young, and Eric Burdon. Somber and melancholic tones blend with the underlying positive vibe of the lyrics and melodies — it's definitely a departure from the rambunctious sounds of The Secrets and The Problems.
Walter's band lineup this week includes himself on guitar and vocals, Brooke Scaggs on drums and vocals, and Manny Hagman (of The Problems) sitting in on bass. The trio perform with additional guests when they open for Danielle Howle on Fri. Sept. 14 at the Village Tavern.
"Brooke holds it down quite nicely, and she's absolutely beautiful in every way," says Walters. "If it wasn't for her encouragement, this never would have happened. We plan to feature different special guests here and there to add a few bells and whistles. But, really, anyone who wants to be a part of it can — even if all you can do is snap your fingers or tap your foot. The door is always open and the light is always on."
Los Angeles-based singer/guitarist Kevin Sandbloom visits town as Monday's headliner in support of a new one titled From A Bird, featuring vocalist Melany Bell. "It's an honor to make our debut with Kevin," says Walters. "He's a blues-based roots/soul singer/songwriter, an incredible musician, and a true gentleman ... a traveling songbird who's worked practically everywhere. He was extremely receptive when we approached him about this gig. We hope everyone shows up to check him out. He's a rare treat and we know he'll appeal to everyone. Whether you're a city mouse or a country mouse or one of those crazy rogue mice, you will dig this man."